Mr Ken Ofori-Atta, the Finance Minister, says he has not taken money from the Contingency Fund for the National Cathedral construction project.
He also said he had not breached the Constitution in making payments from the Contingency Vote to support the National Cathedral.
Mr Ofori-Atta said this when he appeared before the Parliamentary Ad-hoc Committee on Censure, Friday, at Parliament House in Accra.
The Parliamentary Ad-hoc Committee on Censure was set-up by the Speaker to probe the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Minority Caucus’ Motion calling for a vote of censure against the Finance Minister for alleged mismanagement of the economy.
The Ground Two of the Motion alleges unconstitutional withdrawal from the Consolidated Fund in “blatant contravention of Article 178 of the 1992 Constitution” supposedly for the construction of the National Cathedral.
Mr Ofori-Atta said he was uncomfortable about the formulation of the Ground, saying: “It presupposes that Parliament is assuming the jurisdiction to enforce and/interpret a provision of the Constitution, against the combined effect of articles 2(1) and 130(1), which grants the sole and exclusive power to the Supreme Court.”
“Nonetheless, I say with both humility and confidence that I have not breached the Constitution in making payments to support the construction of the National Cathedral of Ghana.”
He noted that three days ago, when the proponents were at the Committee’s sitting, they alleged that he had made payments from the Contingency Fund to support the National Cathedral.
“I want to state that this is just not true. Let me be categorical. I have taken no money from the Contingency Fund to make payments for the National Cathedral,” he said.
“It appears the proponents have confused the Contingency Fund with the Contingency Vote. Let me explain. There is a difference between Contingency Fund and Contingency Vote, ” Mr Ofori-Atta said.
He said the Contingency Fund, which the proponents of the Motion referred to, was covered under the Constitution, specifically article 177.
He said that constituted money voted by Parliament and advances from that must be authorised by the Parliamentary Finance Committee.
For Contingency Vote, the Minister said, was a line under the “Other Government Obligations” vote which was approved by the Finance Committee and passed as part of the annual Appropriation Acts passed by Parliament.
He said in preparing the Annual Budgets, provision was made for indicative expenditures that had not been fully costed at the time of the Budget presentation.
He said the provisions were made in the Contingency Vote to cater for such expenditures; citing for example allocation in 2014 when there was no specific 2014 budget for Ghana’s participation in the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
The Minister said the Cabinet of President John Mahama in March 2014, at the time, approved some $9.622 million for that tournament, “including that amount, which was flown to Brazil in a private jet for the players”.
Mr Ofori-Atta said a more current example was Ghana’s participation in Qatar.
He said the Black Stars qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup after the 2022 budget was presented on 16 November 2021 and approved by Parliament.
“No specific amount was budgeted for it but through the Contingency Vote we have been able to provide funds legitimately for the team to participate in the competition.”
He said expenditures in respect of the National Cathedral were made from the Contingency Vote under the “Other Government Obligations” vote as had been the practice before his tenure.
“Co-Chairs, as Finance Minister, I am fully aware of the approval procedures for use of the Contingency Fund and have not breached its requirement,” the Minister said.
He said the National Cathedral was 100 per cent owned by the State and was not the President’s Cathedral as described by the proponents.
“Indeed, the Attorney-General issued an opinion on 6th January 2022, that the National Cathedral is a state-owned company limited by guarantee, under the Ghana Museums and Monuments Board,” he added.
He said the policy direction and updates on the National Cathedral had been publicly presented over the years through the National Budget Statement and Economic Policy presented to Parliament.
Mr Ofori-Atta said in paragraph 156 of his Budget Speech in the 2019 Budget Statement and Economic Policy on the floor of Parliament, Government’s vision for the National Cathedral as well as the commitment to facilitate the construction by providing the land, the Secretariat, and seed money were stated.
He said subsequently, regular updates on the progress of the construction of the National Cathedral had been provided to Parliament and the nation.